There are several important factors that contribute to match performance of a tennis player, including: Physical, Psychological, Technical and Tactical (management of skills or decision-making), respectively. Although these different factors all together contribute to a tennis player’s match performance and will determine a player’s average level of play, for the purpose of this article, I will only focus on two factors: Technical and Tactical.
From the practical perspective, a tennis player’s technique/skills will determine what that tennis player is consistently capable of doing with the tennis ball through different types of strokes (forehand, serve, backhand, slice, etc.), in a variety of practice situations and then during a variety of match situations. Some key words and terms here are “consistently” and “variety of practice and match situations.” This is because something could be classified as “highly-skilled” or “proficient,” only if it can be successfully repeated multiple times under different conditions (situations). For example, a tennis player’s forehand cross-court could be considered technically highly proficient (skilled) if that tennis player is able to make 90 percent or more of their forehands while hitting in various situations in different ways.
In situations such as feeding drills and live ball rallies, hitting your cross-court forehand on the run and hitting the cross-court forehand slice shot, during practice points, are effective techniques. Hitting your cross-court forehand on the rise and hitting a cross-court forehand with more or less pace, height and spin will bring variation to your game. Once the tennis player has the technical ability (skill) of the specific element (stroke) in tennis, one can hope that that kind of skill would be successfully transferred to official tournament match situations.
This logic could be applied to mastering all different types of elements/strokes in tennis, such as slice, serve, return, volley, overhead, drop shot, etc.
Naturally, it is wise to work on a variety of technical skills in tennis because the more skilled the tennis player is, the more tactical (decision-making) options in a match they will have and will be able to successfully execute.
To be able to compete well in a match, a tennis player needs (besides specific tennis skills as described in the paragraphs above) to consider some of the tactical aspects of the game, such as understanding patterns of play (the geometry of play), higher versus lower percentage choices of plays/shots, and an opponent’s strengths and/or weaknesses, to mention a few important ones.
Also, to compete well in a match, a tennis player needs to understand, feel and be realistic about their own level of specific tennis skills. This awareness can contribute significantly to the quality of their own match performance. For example, a tennis player who is more realistic about their own level of specific tennis skills is more likely to manage those skills better, or in other words, make better decisions (shot and pattern selection) during points. With that in mind, the player will be able to perform on a higher level in the match relative to their level of specific tennis skills than a player who is less realistic about their own level of specific tennis skills.
In my opinion, these are some technical and tactical aspects of tennis that are worth considering for training and in point play. In the end, technique/skills determine the amount and variety of tactics and choices a tennis player can use successfully in a game.
Damir Barisic is a High Performance Coach at CourtSense-Bogota Racquet Club, and holds the highest level coaching license in Croatia. Prior to joining CourtSense, Damir competed on a professional level and achieved ATP ranking in singles and doubles, and after that he spend time coaching at the IMG Nick Bolletieri Academy in Bradenton, Fla., in the Niki Pilic Tennis Academy in Munich, Germany, as well as privately coaching players such as Anja Konjuh and Donna Vekic. At CourtSense, Damir is working with juniors and adults from all different levels, including many nationally-ranked players.